“Who among us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden; to cast a glance at the advances of our science and at the secrets of its development in the centuries to come? What particular goals will the leading mathematical spirits of coming generations strive to reach? What new methods and new facts in the wide and rich field of mathematical thought will the new centuries disclose?” Those words were spoken by the German mathematician David Hilbert on the morning of 8 August 1900 at the Sorbonne in Paris, in front of an audience comprising many of the most famous mathematicians in the world. David Hilbert taught at the University of Gottingen, and his fame had already been enshrined by the most influential scientists of the era. He was an elegant gentleman, balding, and with a well-groomed beard. His Panama hat and glasses completed a look that was at the same time serious and urbane.